Call for action as ‘mindless’ attacks on fire crews rocket

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“MINDLESS” attacks on firefighters have been condemned after figures showed the number of incidents in the Lothians has risen by nearly a quarter in the last year.

A dryer November has been cited as one factor which has seen incidents rise from 33 assaults during the 2010-11 period, to a provisional figure of 41 in the past year.

Lothian and Borders was the only area in Scotland to see a rise in incidents, and local leaders called for tough action against those responsible for the attacks.

Ruth McLeod, spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, told the Evening News: “The spike in attacks on our staff was spread out over the week surrounding Bonfire Night.

“The year before that was very wet and cold but last year was dryer and mild. This meant there were more people out and about, more bonfires and impromptu fireworks displays and unfortunately an increased likelihood of antisocial behaviour, especially from youngsters who may have been upset to see unsafe bonfires extinguished.

“In November 2010 there were five incidents of attacks against firefighters in the area. Last year there were 13.”

Councillor Cammy Day, community safety leader, said: “I strongly condemn any 
attacks made on any members of the emergency services when they are out performing a public service, helping communities and saving lives, and would hope anyone convicted of such an offence was held fully accountable.”

Councillor Mike Bridgman, who is also fire board convener for Lothian and Borders, told the Evening News: “Our firefighters deserve to work safely. They most certainly do not deserve to be abused or attacked in any way. Any attacks on any of our workers are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The fire service’s deputy assistant chief officer and local senior officer for Edinburgh, John Dickie, added: “We would urge parents and carers in particular to discuss this important issue with their children. Talk to them about what firefighters do and the implications of impeding them from carrying out their duties.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman and Lothians MSP David McLetchie said: “Almost every week in the Lothians a fire crew attends a blaze in good faith with the intention of saving lives and property, only to come up against people with a warped sense of values. Our fire crews must be protected while going about their work.”

Under the Emergency Workers Act 2005, anyone found guilty of attacking emergency services personnel can face fines of up to £10,000 or one year’s imprisonment.

AMBUSHED

One of the most shocking attacks on firefighters in the Capital came in September 2010. Crews were called to a suspicious blaze at the West Pilton Children’s Centre and as they attempted to put out the fire, a group of 30 teens and children – some as young as five – ambushed them, pelting them with eggs.

A 15-year-old boy entered the appliance and revved the engine in a bid to drive off.

Fire group manager Tam McGrath, 43, said: “I’d never seen anything like this in 23 years of service. Not only am I disgusted that these people put my firefighters at risk, they also threatened the public in the locality too.”